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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Malaga Jan 2023..... (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Malaga Sat 28th Jan - Tue 1st Jan 2023…..

We took advantage of cheap RyanAir flights @ £42 return each and decided on a bit of late-Winter birding, nice food, a few beers and of course that all important Blue skies and hopefully some Sun to go with it.

We were not disappointed and although Malaga gets its rain from Nov to Feb it did not coincide with our visit. Temperatures were 13-15c with some light cloud from mid-morning to late-afternoon on a coupla days but always burning off after an hour or so. A moderate breeze on Monday afternoon from the West but that did not affect Malaga Town as it is relatively sheltered but it was a factor for my 5 hours over at the Parque Littoral on the Rio Guadalahorce nature reserve. Despite this I found plenty of shelter to bird the area so no complaints. We stopped at a nice hostel with shared w/c etc for £35 per night in the cheaper area in Old Town adjacent to the Arab fort.

Malaga offers some excellent birding at all times of the year and if you have access to a vehicle you can conceivably knock up 100 species any month. David Lindo aka The Urban Birder is a big fan of the place and his last visit, sponsored by Malaga Tourism, yielded 106 species although they did spread much further than my humble effort. The Guadalahorce valley has an excellent range of habitats as you follow it North past the White villages and the Barragem.

We landed at 0930 on the Saturday and after some breakfast by midday were mooching and tbh enjoying just sitting outside near the port in the Sun. On Sunday I walked the contour road up to the fort Mirador, some 650m above sea level before breakfast then out and around the Lighthouse in the afternoon. Monday I did the beaches adjacent to the Lighthouse and the lower fort gardens before breakfast then caught the bus over to the Guadalhorce reserve for 4 hours birding. Tuesday was a gentle mooch again around the gardens before lunch and flying back at 1730 landing at Brum 1930 local. We were blessed to arrive on a day when we are not being held to ransom by travel unions and were back home within an hour and a quarter with 2 train changes. A friend who travelled back from Prague yesterday (Friday) wasn’t so lucky it took him over 3 hours and 3 buses to make it back. To make matters worse he had left his jacket on a bar stool in a bar whilst visiting the loo (derrr) and got back to find his money, about 100 quid and his cards/wallet gone. Fortunately he had enough local currency to change at Brum airport to garner about £8.50 to make it back…..

Birdwise I clocked up about 56 species but it’s about quality not quantity and particularly the all-important ‘self found’ factor. I shall post general sightings etc in this offering and a separate post for my day out at the Guadalahorce. Being urban birding and out of migration season it consists of stuff flitting around and whatever is viewable at the beaches etc. I did not expect anything unusual overflying and although eyes peeled and bridge camera ready I saw nothing of note. The sound of Malaga above everything else is the Monk Parakeet! Although I suspect not for much longer. Their days appear numbered as they are classed as a pest and compete with native species and will be targeted for elimination by the Junta. They have already gone the way of the Dodo in Zaragoza and the estimated 3.5k in Malaga are due to be culled over 2-3 years by local authority snipers armed with air rifles. This will take place before the breeding season as they are pinned down at their chosen breeding site. I must say that they do add a touch of the exotic both in colour and distinct calls but I personally am more than happy for that to take place in its native Argentina and Brazil. Spain legally imported over 1M of these and related species and that is the problem - I feel sorry for the birds but perhaps the White-headed Ducks now breeding on the Guadalahorce would not be present if we had not culled the North American Ruddy…..

The control of Monk Parakeets reminds me of an episode of Fawlty Towers when they have an impending visit by a Hotel Inspector and Manuel has a pet Rat in a cage in his bedroom. Basil clocks it and is horrified but Manuel inisists that it is a ‘pedigree Hamster’ to which John Cleese responds ‘it’s a Rat Manuel. Don’t you have Rats in Spain or did Franco have them all shot?).

Yellow-legged Gull - as expected everywhere and in large rafts around the port. Mixed age groups and always worth looking at. I like to check the varying detail of primary blacking and wingtip mirrors etc on the adults. Just generally observing structural jizz against the LBB’s in the mixed flocks can be instructive.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - ‘graselli’ in the main but I did pick up some small parties of nominate ‘fuscus’ flying adjacent to the reserve.

Blackbird - are the local males slightly Greyer on the underparts?

Carrion Crow - a handful noted.

White Wagtail - the odd male coming into breeding plumage.

House Sparrow.

Collared Dove.

Sardinian Warbler - in suitable habitat wherever I went. Lots of birds calling and flitting with the odd obliging male.


Chiffchaff - again noted feeding in sunny spots where there was insect activity. If anybody knows how to identify a non-singing male in the Winter of the Iberian population I’m all ears.

Wood Pigeon.

Spotless Starling - despite singing males the birds were not sporting noticeable Blueish bases to the bills.

Great Tit - this and the other related species were encountered in the hillside scrub around the fort.

Coal Tit - the local race presumably.

Blue Tit.

Firecrest - excellent views of several feeding birds with lots more calling. I personally find the call more metallic but with the first birds on a trip I like to nail them with views and photos if possible.



Treecreeper - a single very obliging bird, presumably Short-toed, I shall examine the images at some stage. No call heard.

Gannet - birds both offshore and close in. The 1w birds were checked for the recent Brown Booby but…..

Grey Heron.

Cormorant - quite a few but although a couple sported the breeding thigh patch none had ‘continental’ faces.

Black Redstart - several very obliging birds photographed.

Sandwich Tern - both an adult and a 1w fishing off the Lighthouse.

Lighthouse in Spanish are called El Faro. The one at Malaga is known as El Farola. This is feminine and is the only one on the Spanish mainland to be referred to in this gender. The only other one is on Tenerife.

Good Birding -

Laurie -


1. Local subspecies of Scops Owl
2. Red Squirrels up at the Fort.
3. Obliging male Black Redstart.
4. Monk Parakeet.
5. Sardo.


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Half a day out at the Rio Guadalahorce, Parque Natural/Littoral…..

A mere 20 minute bus ride from Malaga Centro this gem of a reserve is wedged between the Football Stadium and the Aeropuerto. The *7 bus from outside the Mosque (get it from the right side of the road) and a paltry 1 euro 40 will take you from the hustle, bustle and Monk Parakeet racket although the latter will be a thing of the past if Franco’s snipers get their eye in. The bus terminates at Carlinda by a primary school from where you pick up the return. They run every 10 minutes. A 15 minute walk will take you to the roundabout, you have to negotiate a dual or is it duel carriageway from whence a track to the left will gain you entrance to the reserve area. There are plenty of other paths etc as both cycling and walking is encouraged. There are, mercifully, no hides but a handful of ‘screens’ with enough roof to keep any rain off and some bench-type seating. A lot of birding can be accomplished by walking and looking with frequent stops. The tracks loop around and take you down to the beach where you can do a bit of seawtaching if that’s your thing and walk down it to pick up a return path. To enter and leave by this method you have to cross the mighty Guadalahorce using 2 bridges. A new undulating wooden one has been built that is not shown on the map I have put up. Just have a look on Google Maps before you go and it will become obvious where and which direction to go. You do bump into the odd birder but on my visits I have found them to be relatively scarce - I wish this was my local patch…..

For most of its course the Guadalahorce drains the Malaga hills and it must be something to see it in flood after heavy rain. Just North of the reserve it splits into 2 and becomes a delta with half a mile or so of flood habitat in between. This new riparian option offers additional variety depending on season. I have visited several times both in September when on a stopover before raptor migration at Tarifa and post New Year like now. Each time I have seen new birds and this jaunt was to be no exception. When you seem to have a new, interesting, place to yourself the anticipation of finding your own stuff makes the pulse race.

Today featured a moderate Westerly which was fine in the sheltered areas but got increasingly bracing down at the beach having said that it did make for tumbling parties of Gulls to identify and an almost discernible Cormorant that held itself flattened on the highest dead tree on the reserve. Signage is few and far between and are of the ’no access’ type which is generally for the non-birding public during the breeding season. For those of us who still put ‘the welfare of the bird’ as the unwritten mantra then I feel, depending on season, this sort of thing is open to interpretation. There is also little sign of ‘management’ and by that I mean plastic sheeting, bailer twine, cages, bird feeders etc - the sort of thing that infests managed reserves in the UK these days.

White Wagtail - birds here and there often with Black Redstarts feeding on the wide tracks. The odd smart male just coming into nuptial plumage. Although Malaga is a bit far around from Gibraltar/Tangier it is always worth checking for the distinct Maroc race ‘subpersonata’. There has been the odd record across the Straits on the Spanish side. Bear in mind Common Bulbul has one possibly 2 outlying pairs breeding at Tarifa. I thought these had gone but managed to find a distinct singing male September just gone so at least one is still there. I have seen plenty of subpersonata on the other side they are very distinct so chance favours the prepared mind…..

Yellow-legged Gull - plenty to go at. The more you look at this species, particularly non-breeding adults, they are all more arrows to the quiver back over in Blighty.

Lesser BB’s - several small parties of distinct nominate ‘fuscus’. Very pleased to see these birds. Same size as ours but completely dark on the upper wing and mantle. If you, like me, find LBB’s and Gulls in general smart-looking birds then these are straight out of the spray shop. I have only seen one in the UK but no pics so I keep that to myself. Reasonable numbers Winter in Maroc and I have bumped into them from Essaouria down as far as Dhakla.

Spotless Starling.

Sardinian Warbler.

Blackcap - a solitary male seen and several ‘tacking’ birds heard.

Grey Wagtail - a single bird noted on the river.


Stonechat - quite a few perching and feeding birds seen.

Black Redstart - lots and nice to see, always smart.


Chiffchaff - lots.


Monk Parakeet - present but not for much longer.


Grey Heron.

Kestrel - a lone hunting male noted.

Serin - walked around a quiet track and flushed about 250+ birds, the most I have ever seen - that’s what I call Serin-dipity.


Tree Sparrow - party of half a dozen birds, no Spanish no cigar.

Kingfisher - a very obliging bird perched on a dead branch.

As I approached the screen overlooking this pool I said Ola to which a finger to the lips was applied. Intrigued by what might be the subject of a couple of Togs the other side it turned out to be the above about 15’ away. I casually mentioned that the dead branch it was perching conveniently close on was not there in Sept and has obviously a ‘prop’. This elicited the response ‘any Short-eared Owls about?’. I replied in the negative and that I haven’t seen one on any visit. I then pushed the boundaries of bird ID by suggesting that there are better things to photograph than either Kingy or SEO and pointed at the Duck with the prominent Blue bill in the middle distance. It gets better. Somebody else piped up ‘I’ve photographed those before they were all shot’…..I thought, that Franco bloke he was quite busy. I said the UK birds were shot in order not to interbreed with the Spanish White-headed Ducks. It went quiet…..

Crested Coot - my attention then turned to a solitary Coot at the far end of the pool. I am always healthily suspicious of lone birds and birds on the edge of a flock particularly Gulls as a singleton ‘Billy-no-mates’ can often be another or closely-related spp. As I locked the camera on cue it started to shift towards cover but not before I papped off a few to confirm its chunkier build, extended frontal shield and forehead - it was, as suspected, a Winter Knobber!

Crag Martin - ca50 birds actively hawking in the distance accompanied by…..

Swallow - about a dozen mixed in. Whether these are overwintering birds or, as I suspect, harbingers of Spring feeding up before the journey North.

Little Grebe.

Shoveler - the most numerous Duck present ca75.


Greenshank - a smart feeding bird giving very close views.

Spoonbill - a single standing bird on the main pool.

Black-winged Stilt - only a handful but always nice to see and looking more or less ready to breed once the soft parts flush a little more.

Sanderling - an obliging individual in front of the main screen.

Slender-billed Gull - as I sat down to observe from the main pool screen I had a quick general scan as at this particular viewing point I have had species that have just flown thru not to be seen again. My last late-Winter visit yielded a fly-thru Osprey and last September a Mach 1 Caspian Tern (pics are available). Another optically-bedecked Brit was in attendance so, uncharacteristically, I asked if anything was about? I don’t normally as I prefer to decide for myself ‘if anything is about’. The response was ‘nah just some Gulls’ and with that he tootled off in the direction of the distant car park - presumably the Westerly breeze was just too much. I had a look at a Great Black-backed Gull that was sitting next to some Stilts and a small group of Black-headed that were refurbishing themselves. In a nanosecond my eyes widened when I copped 2 adult SBG’s - only the 2nd birds I have ever seen the first being nearly 10 years ago in Southern Morocco at a place called Tarfaya (home of The Little Prince aero museum). The BHG’s moved in closer for comparison and were joined by another SBG and finally 2 more making 5.

Audouin’s Gull - I had another scan around then settled back to see a bird feeding adjacent on some mud. It was festooned with rings which meant Audouin’s as the species is part of an ongoing ringing programme due to its breeding range expansion. Despite the visually off-putting bling it remained a smart bird and unlike SBG was one that I thought I would click with during the trip one way or the other.

Off down to the beach and picked up Crested Lark and Wren. In addition there were lots of Gull parties moving in the strong wind.

Several of the aforementioned LBB ‘fuscus’ and a group of c20 mixed age Mediterranean that were being blown about like confetti at a wedding.

And finally…..

Lesser Crested Tern -

Whilst traversing the beach I clocked a distant darker-winged large Tern making its way towards my position but being blown sideways. It was jinking furiously as if in a Dogfight making photographing difficult. Through the binoculars I made allowances for both distance, windage and harsh lighting conditions and managed to snap a handful of images. The mantle colour, proportions/jizz and pale-Orange bill screamed LCT. My experience with this species, like most UK birders, is limited. One linking feature of all my encounters with LCT is that I have found them myself on trips. Whilst at Merga Zerga (Marsh Owl and former Slender-billed Curlew site) I found one sitting with several hundred Sandwich Terns and assorted Gulls. A few years ago I found a lone bird sitting on a shingle ridge at Los Lances reserve, Tarifa. Not to mention a certain Orange-billed ‘possibly Royal’ Tern found on Blakeney Point in 1983. I happened to be the Summer Warden at the time and once the finder had recovered his breath I was ‘press-ganged’ into helping look for the bird as it had flown off. We split up and I relocated it further along from the Lifeboat House. It morphed into a Lesser Crested Tern and the rest as they say…..The bird eventually became the 2nd record for Britain as an individual present on the Farne Islands was accepted after review. The subsequent BB report never mentioned me as there were too many members of the Norfolk Mafia to consider but I know where the bodies are buried.

I was blissfully unaware that a bird had been claimed in Andalucia around the same time as the Brown Booby but I prefer these things that way. With the recent breeding of Elegant Tern in the region it’s eyes to the skies for these flying Carrots. I tried to negotiate a large ditch in order to cut half a mile off the return journey to the bus but it was too deep I did however flush a Jack Snipe a bird I have not seen for at least 5 years in the UK.

One more post on the Spanish experience to follow…..

Good birding -

Laurie -


1. Ruddy Hispanic.
2. Winter Knobber.
3. Nah, just some Gulls.
4. King of Bling.
5. Flying Carrot.


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1. Flatpack Carbo.
2. Stilt.
3. Shank.
4. Club Med.
5. Map.


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5 more.....
1. 'crest.
2. Malaga's clean and the Starlings are Spotless.
3. Urraca - the only one I saw.
4. Serin-dipity.
5. Creepy.


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Finally - prices, logistics and musings.

I have to declare an interest - I love Spain…..

Apart from one excellent Spring trip to Estartit on the Costa Brava and a superb mid-June week in a hostel based at Alcudia on Mallorca all the others have been in Andalucia. Our trips tend to be 2-3 days at a range of locations moving several times during a 2 week stay. The exception is 7+ days at Tarifa during Autumn migration across the Straits. We have stopped in a wide range of accommodation at a likewise diverse variety of locations. In addition to those mentioned Cordoba, Seville, Cadiz, Barbate, Bolonia, Torrox Pueblo, La Linea, Gibraltar, Jerez and El Rocio/Donana have all suffered our patronage. The endless variety and historic charm of the region never ceases to amaze me as does the range of birds. Whether its is Spain, Portugal or mouth-watering Morocco the much scruffier less intensively farmed and laid-back approach to life and things generally always leaves me wanting more…..

In Malaga we stopped at a place called Continental Rooms. This isn’t, to my mind, a hostel - for me a hostel has to have self-catering facilities. As I am the cook back in Blighty we seldom use them but it’s nothing to rustle up an Omelette and Salad from time to time. A hostel means people and the possibility of an interesting chat over beer, wine and a cigar. (Yes, all of them). We like communal and have made both holiday and longer term friends and contacts at these places - you seldom achieve this at expensive hotels and never at the dreaded Air BnB. When stopping in the boonies and almost always in Maroc the establishment will be family-owned and one is supporting both the local economy and the people. No Ibis Hotels here. CR was £35 a night for the both of us. This is off-peak and would be £60-65 in high Summer. Thankfully my annual trip agenda rarely ranges outside the April/May and Sep/Oct slots.

Prices for eating and drinking vary but from Malaga > West it tends to be more expensive that Malaga > East in our experience. The Bride has been to other locations annually with her girl friends and says it is noticeably cheaper. Having said that there are always less expensive areas wherever you stop as the locals have to go out and socialise so they have to be sought and sniffed out. We got ripped-off on this trip by ordering a couple of recommendations off the Blackboard as they said they were ‘out’ of what we wanted on the priced menu. A wise word to the un-Worldly - never order stuff without knowing the price. They are probably still laughing now but rest assured they won’t be when they see Trip Advisor…..

Buses are frequent and cheap. The exception now seems to be the Airport bus from Malaga Centro it has gone up from less than 2 Euros to 4. Why? Because it is a captive market mainly full of Brits that’s why. We almost never get taxis although I would negotiate a fare if it involved getting dropped off several miles away and walking back. Malaga is just built for both cycling and Escooters. I have 2 of the latter myself and enjoy using them during the Summer when the weather is fine. Because of associated idiot-use and a reluctance from both Local Authorities and The Establishment to accept change we have to endure a Luddite attitude to their use in the UK until a way can be found to make money via some sort of license and insurance scheme - best of luck with that. In Malaga there a loads for hire and far more owned and being used both on pavements and roads with no problems certainly in my experience. I see people, generally, using them safely on roads and courteously on paved areas. The Police don’t bother them and they do not give the Police reason to. This is a refreshing scenario as I find Spain a very authorititive country generally. Several layers of Police/Security and all carry weapons. In addition there are lots of Ciuidad/Junta appointed uniformed types that oversee railway and bus stations etc - these are not armed. Today, 7th Feb, finally and mercifully sees the complete dropping of face mask wearing on public transport. It has only been advisory in most rural areas and some towns but it has been left to individual Juntas to decide and a few did not want to relinquish power and control over the worker Ants. I didn’t wear mine to my face but hung it away on my glasses so it didn’t bother me although I still found it farcical…..and told whoever was willing to listen so.

The only thing that limits my desire to travel is the availability of Alcohol. Fortunately that chimes with some of the more repressive regimes in the Middle East - a pity as from the Mahgreb thru the Arabian Peninsula and on to the Levant is my favourite area and not just birding the cuisine and history I find tasty and fascinating. Not forgetting my ultimo destino…..Persia. For the time being I shall have to bird there vicariously via Jos Stratford’s Indiana Jones’ style blog…..

I will post bird sightings etc from my next trip as a daily blog. I have finally got around to booking flights from London to Tel Aviv and then a coach down to Eilat. To say I am excited is an understatement. Fingers crossed with regard to the political situation, personal safety, favourable weather and both excellent migration / local birding and everything is in place. I am going on my own and hope to bump into some old faces from the Scillies etc and maybe even make a few new ones. I am in-situ from Mar 7th until April 15th and look forward to sharing the experience…..

Good birding -

Laurie -


1. Malaga.
2. El Farola.
3. Distinct signage - Cachalot was the old whaling term for a Sperm Whale.
4. Hemingway 2.0 - this bloke was holding forth and regaling anybody within earshot of his derring-do during the Spanish Civil War in a 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' style.....in reality he was probably sipping chilled White wine with Laurie Lee :)
5. The ghost of Franco still stalks the streets of Malaga Old Town.


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